Common CV Mistakes

There are actually very few hard and fast rules when writing a CV – it’s principles that matter – like relevance, clarity, brevity, focus on achievements, etc. BUT here are some things that really don’t work very well – so avoid them if you can. They have worked – but in only rare instances.

1 – Pictures in your CV

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Candidate “A” had included a picture of himself, on his cell-phone, with his nose pointing down the ‘barrel’ of the camera. He had this “I’m so cool and good looking” expression on his face. It just did his application no credit at all. In fact it engendered an immediate dislike – however irrational, biased and discriminatory that may sound. On top of it, his CV read like it was put together in rush, not giving crucial information about his past performance. He probably took more time to put in the picture than write the resume!
  • Candidate “B” had two pictures. One on the left-top of 3 people standing at a desk – “Hello! which one is you??” and the one on the right-top was him at a braai (barbecue) looking like he’d had a few drinks – his hair was dishevelled and shirt looked sloppy. I really couldn’t tell which of the 3 he was from the other photo.

I’m not saying everyone’s pics are as bad as these examples were. But here’s the thing: you can’t go wrong by leaving them out altogether. Include them at your peril!

If you insist though, be sure to have a professionally taken one. Make it small – everyone will get irritated if it takes ½ an hour to download. Make it one of you in a professional environment. Be dressed up. The harsh truth is that we all like attractive people. And generally attractive people get hired before us uglies and overweights!

The same principles should be kept in mind when you place any identified pictures of you on the Internet – be careful of any that may call into question your soundness of mind – y’know, like the one of you, drink in hand, in a wolf suit, strapped together with little red riding hood in a g-string about to do a bungee jump.

So don’t blow yourself out the water before your even got the interview! Unless you’re a stunner or it’s appropriate for your job (smiling, frontline, customer service person for eg.) just leave it out. No-one is going to exclude you because you’ve not included a picture. But they may well exclude you if you’ve included a bad one.

2) Another classic boo-boo was made by someone with regard to the text/font he chose.

Have you heard of ‘sparkle text’? If not go to MSWord/Format/Font/Text Effects. Try out ‘sparkle text’. Cute hey! Yes – for a 4 year old’s birthday invitation! Not for a 54 year old General Manager!! And especially if he’s using font size 8! You can’t read a thing for all the flashing lights!

Don’t know what he was thinking. Maybe – “I’ve got to make myself stand out”. And that’s good thinking. BUT ‘sparkle-text’ is not the way you do it. Just use Arial or Times New Roman – boring but can’t be beaten for simplicity.

A good CV is made up of a combination of good formatting and good content – no spectacular tricks necessary.

3) Length.

Some people have 30 page CVs. True story! Others a more reasonable 10 – and anything in between. And sometimes included is an exhaustive set of certificates – going back as far as primary school (true story, again!)

This is a tough one. But really the rule is this: be clear and concise – going to 10 or 20 pages is probably way too much. It may be clear – to you. But the longer it goes on the more difficult it is to convey a clear, uncluttered message.

The CVs I write often go longer than 2 pages. To me length only becomes a real issue once you start going beyond 3 pages. You’ve got to be careful with that.

There are many more – will add as I go along. Keep looking back.

Leave a Comment